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The Long Drive by Penny Luker Harry Blaze made his way up the long driveway, noticing the borders needed attention and roses needed pruning. He’d learned his gardening skills in prison, but had decided that if he was going to turn his life around he needed to go straight. Just before he left prison he’d been offered an interview for a gardening post at this beautiful, if intimidating, grand house. He rang the doorbell.

Lady Joyce was speaking, ‘I can see you’re admiring the photo frames. Yes they are silver and you need to know I know exactly how many there are. Seventeen, and if any go missing you will be out of here quicker than you know.’

An old style manservant with greyish skin and wrinkles that would have done a prune proud, answered the door.

‘I can only count sixteen and anyway, you contacted me to offer me a job. I thought you were giving me a real chance.’ He stood up. ‘I was obviously wrong. You just want someone as a whipping boy.’

‘You’re expected, Sir. Please come in. I’m Barnaby. Have been with Lady Joyce for forty years.’ Harry was shown into a large sitting room with high ceilings and faded, worn furniture. ‘Mr Blaze, M’Lady.’ ‘Would you bring us some coffee and biscuits, Barnaby? Thank you.’ Harry shuffled awkwardly. He’d never been in a house so stately. ‘Oh do sit down my boy. Now, I understand you’ve been away and during your time have trained as a gardener. Your reference says that you have a natural talent. I used to be the same you know.’ Harry’s eyes scanned the room, nervously. He so wanted this job; to turn his life around and not return to prison, but his eyes rested on the photographs set out in rows and there was a picture of his mother. What an earth was that about?

Harry looked at her with resignation and then back to the picture, he was sure was his mother.

‘Oh do sit down, Harry. I know you want the job.’ He was about to sit down, when Barnaby tottered in with the coffee. Harry took the heavy tray and placed it on the table. Barnaby shuffled out of the room but Harry knew the footsteps stopped outside the door. ‘Let me tell you about the job,’ said Lady Joyce. ‘You’ll be completely in charge of the garden. It will be up to you to bring it back to it’s former glory. It needs a lot of work, but you’ll be paid well and there’s a flat over the garage you can have for free.’ ‘That all sounds good.’ ‘And you can come and eat with me in the evenings and keep me company.’ ‘That seems a bit odd, if you don’t mind my saying so. Do you eat with Barnaby too?’ ‘Of course not, he’s my employee.’

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